In August, the Board hosted a productive meeting for the Optometry Regulatory Reference Group. Members of this group include the Heads of School, other regulators, and professional associations in Australia and New Zealand. We led a workshop on culturally safe eyecare, with members sharing current work and identifying further opportunities for all to improve on.
Understanding the importance of diversity on committees, we want to increase representation from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and people from diverse backgrounds. We also aim to achieve a balance of practitioner and community members. We have successfully recruited for multiple community positions and a practitioner position on our Policy and Education Committee and Registration and Notifications Committee.
The end of the year is fast approaching, and professional obligations come into focus at renewals time. You will need to make declarations on your continuing professional development and recency of practice for the renewal period finishing on 30 November. Please keep an eye out for important updates via email and on the Board’s website so you can stay informed and have a straightforward renewal of registration for 2024.
Presiding Member, Optometry Board of Australia
After I retired from full-time work, I decided it was time to give back to my community and share some of the skills and knowledge I’d gained over decades of working in the health sector. I’m a ‘systems improvement’ person and believe a well-informed, well-supported community not only directly benefits patients and families but also supports practitioners and the whole health system to deliver optimal care. I also thought it would be interesting to learn more about regulation decisions that directly affect consumers and practitioners and get to understand how Ahpra and the National Boards work and, hopefully, add value to the system.
I’ve really had two careers: one as Head of Public Health and Community Medicine in the UNSW Faculty of Medicine and the other as Principal Adviser for Cancer and Chronic Diseases for the Australian government within the Department of Health and Ageing. In both roles, I worked extensively with consumers and patient organisations, senior clinical physicians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other groups.
My interest in optometry stems from a lifetime of personal experience with impaired vision in a family of short-sighted people! When I was 12 years old, visiting Paris with my family, one lens of my glasses broke, and it was impossible to get them fixed anywhere. It was a terrible time, and I couldn't see properly for months until we could get them fixed. I learnt the hard way how dependent I was on the accessibility of essential services and optometrists! I'm now passionate about consumers getting the right care, from the right person, at the right time and place.
When I first joined the Optometry Board, I was fortunate to have a very experienced Board who had served a long time. They inducted me very well and it helped me get across the major issues quickly. I've worked on most of the key policy areas including the continuing professional development and English language requirements with my optometrist colleagues. I have also served on the Registration and Notifications Committee, and I represent the Optometry Board in the World Health Organization network that considers how we can help and support other Western Pacific jurisdictions with their regulation work.
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Good clinical decision-making in the interest of your patients is essential, and clinical decisions should be made in consultation with and in the best interests of your patient.
It is important to highlight that good clinical care must not be compromised by pressure to meet business targets. This includes any appliances, tests, imaging, or treatments that are not clinically necessary for the care of your patient.
The shared Code of conduct (the code), outlines the Board’s expectations of the ethical and professional conduct of practitioners and of the requirement to use your professional judgement to achieve the best possible outcomes for your patients. The code says that ‘good practice should not be influenced by financial gain or incentives’.
Anna is employed in a busy optometry practice. The practice has recently purchased an expensive optical coherence tomography (OCT) machine. The practitioner owner who employs her, sets a performance target that requires her to provide a certain number of OCT scans each month. This incurs an $80 out-of-pocket cost. Anna reviews her patient records and informs the practice owner that to achieve the target she would need to recommend an OCT to some patients who do not have any signs or symptoms that indicate clinical need for the scan.
Anna and the practice owner read the code and in particular, section 8.10 Conflicts of interest which states:
Good practice includes that:
i. if you employ other registered health practitioners, do not set performance targets, quotas or engage in business practices that are inconsistent with this code, and/or may compromise patient safety.
Anna and the practice owner agree that good care includes the quality use of imaging based on the best available evidence and the patient’s needs. Anna only scans patients who have a clinical need.
Other case studies highlighting how you can apply the code in your practice can be found on Ahpra’s website.
The Optometry Board and Ahpra have announced an increase in the annual registration fee for optometrists for 2023/24.
The registration fee for optometrists will limit the increase below indexation by 3 per cent to $347 from 20 September. This will cover the registration period from 1 December 2023 to 30 November 2024.
Optometrists are not immune to the current economic challenges. The Board recognises this and has worked to keep fees as low as possible while ensuring we can perform our vital role to keep the public safe.
Read more in the news item.
Optometrists have until 30 November 2023 to renew their general or non-practising registration on time.
We encourage you to renew early to avoid delays during the busy renewal period. Renewing on time also means you’ll avoid late fees which apply after 30 November 2023.
Look out for an Ahpra email providing access to online renewal.
Head to the registration renewal webpage to start an online renewal application.
If you submit your application on time, or during the following one-month late period, you can continue practising while your application is assessed.
If you don’t renew by the end of the late period, 31 December 2023, your registration will lapse, you’ll be removed from the public register and you won’t be able to use the protected title of optometrist.
Read the renewal FAQs on the Ahpra website for helpful tips and information on what you need to do to renew.
We cover common questions on professional indemnity insurance, recency of practice, continuing professional development, and what to do if you have a change in your criminal history or health impairments you need to tell us about.
The Board’s quarterly registration data to 30 June 2023 has been released. At this date, there were 6,762 registered optometrists. Non-practising optometrists made up 259 of that number, plus 19 optometrists with limited registration.
There are 4,814 optometrists with scheduled medicines endorsement, 74.2 per cent of the profession.
By gender, 58.6 per cent are female, 41.4 per cent are male.
For more details, including registration data by principal place of practice, age and gender, visit our Statistics page.
Check out our graduate video to help you get your application right.
You’ll find helpful advice, tips for avoiding common causes of delay and downloadable information flyers on the Graduate applications page of the Ahpra website.
A new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement and Support team (the support team) is also available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduates who might need help with or have questions about their application for registration.
The support team is committed to helping graduates get registered promptly so you can start making vital contributions to safe healthcare and to your communities. If, after reading our helpful tips, you would like help with your application for registration, please email the support team at email@example.com.
In addition to a Justice of the Peace (JP), most registered health practitioners, public servants, teachers, lecturers and members of the legal profession can certify photographic ID documents.
For the full list of authorised officers see the Certifying documents guide.
It's important that you provide correctly certified photo ID documents with your application as the wording required is specific:
‘I certify that this is a true copy of the original and the photograph is a true likeness of the person presenting the document as sighted by me.’
To get it right the first time, download the Certifying documents guide and take it with you to the authorised officer.
You may need to provide supporting documents with your application to prove you meet the Optometry Board’s registration standards, including meeting the English language skills requirements. Make sure you provide all the documents needed with your application so we can assess it quicker.
A recording of the Board’s webinar 'Ready to Work: your obligations as a registered optometrist' is available, to help you understand what is required of you as you prepare to start work.
We can’t finalise your application until we receive your graduation results from your education provider.
If you’ve submitted everything needed to prove you’ve met the requirements for registration, we aim to finalise your application within two weeks of receiving your graduation results.
For more information, read the news item.
Cosmetic procedures, including Botox and other anti-wrinkle injections and fillers, will be under the spotlight in an expansion of Ahpra’s year-long crackdown on Australia’s cosmetic surgery industry. Stronger public safeguards are needed because of escalating consumer demand for non-surgical cosmetic procedures and more health practitioners seeking a career in the cosmetics industry.
One year on from the cosmetic surgery review, work is complete on most reforms with higher practice standards and new advertising rules for medical practitioners now in place. Further reforms will focus on the non-surgical cosmetic procedures industry with new guidelines coming for all health practitioners providing these services.
The planned overhauls are likely to place a stronger emphasis on informed consent and pre-procedure consultation, including a patient suitability assessment. There will also be a focus on prescribing and administering prescription-only cosmetic injectables.
Proposed new advertising guidelines are likely to focus on the use of ‘before and after’ images, claims about expertise and qualifications of practitioners, and affirm the ban on the use of testimonials. There will also be clear rules on the use of influencers and social media figures.
Public consultation on the proposed guidelines will open in coming months ahead of their release in the first half of 2024.
Only specialist surgeons can now call themselves ‘surgeon’ under new legislation to restrict the use of the title by registered medical practitioners. The change means that a medical practitioner will only be able to use the title ‘surgeon’ if they are registered in one of the recognised specialties of surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, or ophthalmology.
The amendment to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law legally protects the title ‘surgeon' from being used by any doctor without the necessary qualifications and training. Before this, any registered medical practitioner could call themselves a surgeon, even if they were not registered in a surgical specialty or had not completed specialist training in surgery.
The move supports the work of Ahpra and the Medical Board of Australia to clean up the cosmetic surgery industry, with only specialist doctors now able to call themselves a cosmetic surgeon, and complements the Medical Board’s introduction of an endorsement for cosmetic surgery. Both will help patients understand who is qualified and equip them to make informed choices.
Doctors who continue to use the title illegally may face criminal and/or regulatory action.
Ahpra's Taking care podcast series covers a wide range of current issues in patient safety and healthcare in conversation with health experts and other people in our community. Listen and subscribe by searching for 'Taking care' in your podcast player (for example Apple Podcasts or Spotify) or listen on our website.
The latest episode is 'Coming to a land down under: Australia as a destination for health practitioners'. This ep. examines the path overseas health workers must take when wanting to work in Australia.
Click on the image below to read the National Scheme newsletter. The next issue will be published in November 2023, with highlights from the 2022/23 annual report of Ahpra and the National Boards. You can also subscribe on the newsletter page.